Regardless of your company's size and approach, eliciting honest and valuable information from employees is not only difficult, it requires a strategic plan.
Here are some tips to make sure your employees are giving you the feedback you need to help your organization grow:
1. Start out Small
Whether you're rolling out a new employee feedback process, or modifying an existing one, make your next survey extremely short and easy to complete. Help your employees become comfortable with the process and rid them of any past negative survey experiences. Create three to four surveys that can each be completed in less than five minutes (less than two minutes is even better), send them out at varying intervals, and provide immediate, confidential feedback once you've received the results of each.
2. Provide Anonymity... and Own That Responsibility
The number one employee concern with surveys is that their information won't be anonymous. This, more than anything else, contributes to generic and useless employee feedback. Stress the security and integrity of the survey, but also provide a detailed explanation of how the system is set up to ensure anonymity. Communicate that you take personal ownership for the security of everyone's confidentiality seriously, and that you are ultimately responsible to make sure no one's information can be traced back to them without their consent. Using an online survey tool is a great way to manage this process. (In a recent JobsInME.com poll, only seven percent of employers polled use an online internal survey tool exclusively to gain employee feedback.)
3. Include Every Employee
Be sure to have every employee, from all departments and all shifts, participate in your feedback process. You never know where great ideas or useful insight will come from. Whether you choose to include managers in this process should be based on your business culture and the content of the specific survey. This is another way that you can demonstrate how serious you are about getting genuine feedback, rather than just taking a sample.
4. Share All Results and Do It as Quickly as Possible
Always share the results of your surveys - even if the feedback is not positive. This open and honest approach will help you gain trust and valuable feedback in the future. When sending out your surveys, provide a deadline for completing them, and set a date for when the results will be shared. Employees want to know how their perspective relates to others, and will become anxious and disengaged if you don't provide that information within a reasonable time.
5. Ask Open-ended and Closed-ended Questions
Open-ended questions allow respondents to write out answers based on their opinions and will generate great qualitative data. Closed-ended questions allow respondents to select from a predetermined list of responses and will yield analytical data, as you can group the data by the responses and see patterns. A good practice is to provide at least one closed- and one open-ended question for each piece of information you're seeking feedback on.
As you plan a survey, what do you want to know about and what will you ultimately do with the feedback? If you're not committed to acting on it, it's best not to request it in the first place.